Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA)

Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA)

Research Infrastructure affiliation: EMBRC

Location: Plymouth, UK

Website address:

Local Access Officer:  Dr Heidi Tillin (



The MBA promotes scientific research into all aspects of life in the sea and disseminates to the public the knowledge gained. The research programme is structured around the broad themes “ecosystems and environmental change” and “mechanisms underlying biogeochemical and ecological processes. Within these themes, the MBA research groups carry out research on marine biogeochemical cycles, biodiversity and ecosystem function, science for sustainable marine resources, as well as running a programme of integrating sustained observations in the marine environment. The MBA also runs a strong and dedicated teaching and training programme for both researchers and the public.


The MBA has a modern seawater system with holding tanks, algal culture facilities (including chemostats), and fully equipped wet, “dry” and sterile laboratory space with all necessary facilities. Technical support for the laboratory and IT facilities and access to the National Marine Biological Library, the Plymouth Culture collection of Phytoplankton, and the Marine Life Information Network (MARLIN).

Full molecular genetics facilities (PCR, Real-time PCR, DNA sequencing, cell culture, etc), a highly advanced imaging and cell physiology facility (confocal, multiphoton and TIRF systems). The laboratory is also equipped with HPLC, gas chromatography, spectrophotometry, spectrofluorimetry, atomic absorption spectrophotometry and a radio isotope laboratory.

Unique facility for advanced live cell imaging, including 2x multi laser scanning confocal microscopes; 2-photon microscopy; TIRF microscopy(total internal reflection fluorescence);  spinning disk confocal to be adapted for lab and ship-board platforms for live cell physiological imaging of natural  phytoplankton populations; fully environmentally controlled (light, temperature, CO2) fluorescence microscopy with single cell chlorophyll fluorescence fluorimetry; single cell biophysics (electrophysiology, including patch clamp, ion selective electrodes, single and 2-electrode voltage clamp).  Imaging facility is fully integrated with the modern fully equipped molecular biology suite, including cell culture facilities (particularly phytoplankton, protists), seawater circulation and animal holding facilities.

Local habitats can be accessed using the MBA’s research vessel.


The advanced microscopy facility is arguably the most comprehensive in a European marine lab.  It has been established over several years with the aim of providing conditions for live cell imaging and physiological measurements, including cellular pH, calcium, chlorophyll fluorescence parameters.  Supported by the MBA culture collection of algae and phytoplankton and associated culturing facilities it allows a wide range of cell types, from protists, including phytoplankton to multicellular algae, invertebrate and vertebrate systems to be studied in environmentally controlled conditions.  This facility is specifically dedicated to use with marine model organisms and those of environmental significance. It is not shared with any other department or organisation.

Access to long time series observatories through the Western Channel Observatory (L4, E1).  This includes the MBA long term time series dataset on various habitats and species anywhere in Europe and the world, that can be accessed electronically. In addition, the standard haul conducted by the MBA for over one hundred years is one of the few long-term fisheries independent datasets publicly available for research.

The MBA National Marine Biological Library, providing serials and archives of marine literature, including substantial collection of reports and records of historical data, expedition reports and unique books.

Support offered

TA-users have access to lab-space, to standard disposables and administrative and logistic support and to the services in the units listed above, including troubleshooting with, and basic training in, the use of platforms. Other amenities include an in-house cafeteria. MBA does not provide lodging, but restaurants, hotels and B&Bs are nearby. The Local liaison officer can assist with lodging reservations.